HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a "pillar of the community" who dedicated his life to helping those in need.

77-year-old Ghulam Rabani sadly died on Tuesday, February 16, after being hospitalised with coronavirus.

Mr Rabani worked in Bradford's textile industry for many years before his voluntary role at the Sangat Centre, which opened in 1991, became a full time job and life-long passion.

From helping hundreds access a British citizenship course to a men's mental health project, the centre manager worked with the elderly community and was a beacon of support for many in the Asian community.

It is the second major loss for the town of Keighley in the past month with covid-19 taking the life of another gem, Councillor Abid Hussain.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The late Cllr Abid Hussain with Sangat Centre's Ghulam RabaniThe late Cllr Abid Hussain with Sangat Centre's Ghulam Rabani

"He has always been a pillar of the community," his colleagues at the Sangat Centre told the T&A.

The team said: "He has been a driving force in supporting the needy and vulnerable to be empowered to integrate into society.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

"Over the years the work and projects Mr. Rabani lead at the Sangat Centre speak volumes for themselves. Mr. Rabani started the Sangat Centre with Social Day Care and this blossomed into a multi-faceted organization serving people from all backgrounds and needs. We are a hub for adult education, youth activities and advice. This continuous development and progress have been overseen by Mr. Rabani over a period of three decades.

"From the formation of Sangat Centre, Mr. Rabani dedicated the rest of his life to ensure its success. The community will attest that he worked evenings, weekends, holidays voluntarily to ensure their needs were met. No client was ever turned away disappointed.

"He was a truly humble, positive and genuine person. He was the heartbeat of Sangat Centre, an irreplaceable loss. We have lost a diamond. No words can describe the loss we are feeling but he has left the Centre as his legacy. We feel honored and privileged to have known and worked with him."

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Cllr Doreen Lee (Labour, Keighley East), had worked with Mr Rabani throughout the years and said the news was "extremely sad".

Cllr Lee said: "He's been a great service to Keighley. He will be missed by lots and lots of people that he's helped over the years. This disease, it's taken so many people.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Joining Keighley MP Ann Cryer and Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP are, back, from left, Cllr Doreen Lee, Keighley East; Tracey Smith of the Whinfield Centre; Ghulam Rabani, Sangat Centre; Amjad Zaman, Greenhead High School; Insp Mark AJoining Keighley MP Ann Cryer and Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP are, back, from left, Cllr Doreen Lee, Keighley East; Tracey Smith of the Whinfield Centre; Ghulam Rabani, Sangat Centre; Amjad Zaman, Greenhead High School; Insp Mark A

"We worked together on lots of things. It's just extremely sad. I offer my condolences to his family and the wider community because the wider community have lost a great leader and great uncle."

Javed Bashir first met Mr Rabani when he helped set up the Sangat Centre as a community engagement officer at Keighley Town Council.

The community leader said: "He was very nice, very down to earth, very humble. He was very fit for his age. He was always smartly dressed. He never seemed angry, he was always smiling.

"A lot of people used to rely on him for advice.

"Since Covid started so many people we know have passed and it makes you think what we're fighting for and what we're trying to achieve. Life is very short and we should do things to build bridges between communities and be kind to them and that's what people remember and in our religion this will be judged.

"I think the message of Covid should come in, that it's quite serious. We're losing people and Mr Rabani's died due to Covid and so did Abid as well.

"People need to take it seriously and not believe in these conspiracies on social media. By not taking the vaccination you are risking your lives and you're risking the lives of other people as well. This is an opportunity to think nobody's safe from Covid. You need to get involved in the vaccination, take some precautions, social distancing and save your life and save other people's lives."

Read more on this: Bradford community figure speaks after getting his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine

Mohammed Mustafa Chaudhary, a reporter for UK44 - a news channel for the South Asian community - and Keighley resident, met Mr Rabani several times while covering the centre. Over the years, as a local, he grew to realise just how important he was to the town.

The reporter said: "If somebody had any issue in the community and they contacted me and I had to ring him, he was there for them.

"He was well known in Keighley, helped the elderly people in every way. This is a big loss for Keighley again. This is a second pillar of Keighley.

"In every issue he was a really trusted person. People put trust in him. He'd always help them. He will be missed for years. The Keighley community now has just been shocked between two big people are just gone.

"He was there for everybody. Everybody had faith in him."